Cybersecurity firms must hire more women, say experts

The cybersecurity industry desperately needs more skilled labor to better protect our data. However, experts in the field say that we are just beginning to study an obvious solution: to recruit more women.

Recent high-profile data leaks, such as those of Desjardins, Capital One, TransUnion and Equifax, have compromised the personal information of millions of Canadians. These are striking examples of a growing problem.

“National and economic security is based on strong cyber security, but most nations have big shortcomings,” says industry veteran Lisa Kearney.

Yet this Vancouverer has worked with only a handful of women in 24 years. This raises questions about why half of the potential workforce is bucking the industry while filling vacancies is of paramount importance.

In 2018, Lisa Kearney founded the Women CyberSecurity Society, a non-profit organization dedicated to engaging women and girls in cybersecurity, helping them find jobs in the field, and supporting them to become more successful. they stay there.

“I think there is a great professional opportunity for women who can break into the field and have a successful and satisfying career in cybersecurity, she said in an interview with CBC.

She points out that women make up only 10% of Canada’s cyber security workforce.

The reasons behind this under-representation are multiple. Often, the field is simply not on women’s radar when it comes to choosing post-secondary programs. If not, there’s a perception that it’s a men-only industry , says Lisa Kearney. The other misconception is that it’s very technical and you have to have technical support knowledge.

In fact, there are many types of cybersecurity jobs and many of them are not coding-based, according to the founder of the Women CyberSecurity Society. She cited examples of positions that imply government compliance or customer management.

Many of the women who enter the field are abandoning it because they feel isolated by this male culture or because they are bullied, harassed or marginalized because of a lack of advancement. career, according to Lisa Kearney.

I attended a meeting where I was hired by the company to help men secure their computer systems and databases. At the end of the meeting, my colleague looked at me and said, “Ah, you do not have to come to the next meeting because it’s technical,” she says.

The technician was also invited to conference calls in which she was asked to stay in listening mode while male colleagues took credit for her work – a very common experience in the industry, she says.

Why would women want to work in the industry if they face such challenges?

There is the satisfaction of doing a job of crucial importance at a time when our personal information is in several connected virtual places, but also the promise of a stable job with a good salary.

When leaving school, salaries are often $ 60,000 to $ 75,000, according to Alana Staszczyszyn. Lisa Kearney says she has even seen entry fees as high as $ 100,000.

According to the professional cybersecurity organization (SAI) ², there is a global shortage of manpower; nearly 3 million jobs are available in the area.

A world of men

Now 23, Alana Staszczyszyn works as a security consultant for Security Compass, a company specializing in software security.

She said, however, that she needed to work hard to overcome the challenges of joining a class of sixty or so with just five or six women. For example, she had to be assertive when it came time to find partners for teamwork.

There was definitely a boy club culture in which I felt excluded , says Alana Staszczyszyn.

Nicholas Johnston, a professor and program coordinator in the Bachelor of Information Systems program at Sheridan College, says that women account for about 10% of enrollments since the program’s inception in 2004.

It’s about equal to the ratio in the industry, a worrying thing for a long time , he says. It starts to improve. There are many initiatives and conferences that attempt to address the gender gap in the industry, but these initiatives are fairly recent.

Interest in the program and demand for its graduates has been steadily increasing in recent years, according to Nicholas Johnston. Initially, there were 10 to 15 students per cohort, whereas there are now more than 350 students.

For her part, Alana Staszczyszyn says she is encouraged by the campaigns of organizations such as Girls Who Code, which offers free programming classes for women, and The Diana Initiative, an annual conference on women, diversity and diversity. inclusion in the information security environment in Las Vegas.

When asked what she would like other young women to know about their background, Alana Staszczyszyn reflects on her unusual journey from the arts to cybersecurity.

“If I had to tell them anything, there would be room for any talent in this industry.”

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